What does it take to be a master sommelier?

What does it take to be a master sommelier?

Confessions 101

Text: Janice Sim

Singapore's first master sommelier, Mathias Camilleri, clears the air about his reputable title

There are sommeliers, and then there are master sommeliers. The latter is dubbed a highly prestigious title, currently only undertaken by less than 250 people in the world.

Now, the first master sommelier has emerged in our city's thriving dining scene (about time, we think). Mathias Camilleri has been appointed by CÉ LA VI Singapore, and was one of only five candidates to receive the respected designation in October last year.

Master Sommelier Mathias

As much as we're thrilled and excited for what's to come at one of Singapore's top rooftop bars, it's a position that we're still unfamiliar with. Lucky for us, in our brief chat with the charming master sommelier, Camilleri expounded more on the accolade, and debunks certain misconceptions of the profession.

Your love for wines started when...
I tried this Riesling from Germany and was like, "That's it, that's what I want." Funnily enough, this happened when I was in China; even though I was born and raised in France. 

A master sommelier is...
essentially a head sommelier at a restaurant. The difference from a normal sommelier is that I took the exam, and that I can bring a different fleet of know-hows through my experience in Europe, whether it be from the different sommeliers I worked with, and the various techniques I have developed along the way.

The journey to becoming master sommelier...
is pretty long. I took the test in London, the place where my sommelier career kicked off. It encompassed four different stages — starting from introductory, then certified, advanced and then the master sommelier. For me, it took about five years to see the whole exam through. The exam is based on a blind tasting, knowledge assessment as well as a practical approach to various situations that you can have in front of a guest.

To tell if a wine is good or bad...
you smell it first, to understand how intense, complex, clean it is. Followed by tasting the wine, you'll then figure out if the balance is there between what you smelled and what you tasted, and then deciphering the different textures. After which, you'll know if you like it or not.

Master Sommelier Mathias

When people think sommeliers drink all day...
they're not entirely wrong (laughs). But apart from that, we are here to connect the chef's food to the wine, and to bring an experience to the customer. That's the first role of a sommelier — to support the food. We're also here not to intimidate, there's no need to be afraid about saying the wrong thing.

Being a master sommelier is either something you have or you don't...
no, everyone can do it. Sure, there will be some that have a better sense of how to taste the wine or some that could impress others with their confident disposition, but you still need everything to come together at the end of the day. And that takes hard work — I don't think it's something gifted, it's something that you can train.

To find out more about CÉ LA VI Singapore, click here.